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Know Your Foe: The Houston Astros are the Lastros no longer

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The Astros are playing winning baseball for the first time since 2008

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros owned the laziest pun name in all of sports for the last six years: the Lastros. Because they would always finish last. Simple, concise, and oh so accurate. An entire cul-de-sac of Jon Bois's wonderful GIF Oracle was dedicated to the Astros' tomfoolery on the field. The Astros won 56 games in 2011 and finished last. They won 55 games in 2012 and finished last. They won 51 games in 2013 and finished last, and honestly, MLB should have invented some special category beyond last place for that team. They should have been Thunderdomed right out of the game.

But in 2014 they finished...not last. That team won 70 games and avoided the cellar of the AL West. Behind the unearthing of solid pitching, the promotion of some exciting rookies, and clusters of home runs, the 2014 Astros actually looked like a baseball team, at times.

The 2015 Astros are doing the same thing, but more. More talented rookies. Better pitching. A better record (36-28 and first in the AL West). And dingers dingers dingers.

The Astros lead the league in home runs with 85. Third baseman Luis Valbuena has 14, despite hitting just .185 overall. Chris Carter has swatted 11 after hitting 37 last year. George Springer, after hitting 20 in 78 games in his rookie season last year, "only" has eight, but his power is big time. Even pint-sized Jose Altuve has five round-trippers. Up and down the lineup you see guys who can hit the ball a long, long way, when they manage to get some wood on it at all.

Which can be a problem for them. Their strikeout percentage is 24.7 percent, which is second highest in MLB, just a tick behind the Cubs. These guys swing from their heels and either hit the ball to Mars or walk back to the bench. It sounds equal parts fun and frustrating.

Actually, I take that back, it sounds way more fun than frustrating. Astros fans get to watch a slew of young studly players on a daily basis now. There's the aforementioned Springer. Short stop Carlos Correa, one of the top prospects in the game, just debuted a week ago. Altuve is a hit machine. Top pitching prospect Vincent Velasquez just made his MLB debut after dominating Double-A. These guys are young and exciting.

Astros Hitters

Name G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
George Springer 58 252 8 30 21 13 14.30% 26.20% 0.179 0.336 0.259 0.367 0.439 0.355 131 3.5 12.1 -4.1 1.8
Jose Altuve 61 268 5 27 27 17 5.60% 10.10% 0.105 0.306 0.29 0.33 0.395 0.31 99 0.3 -0.1 3.7 1.3
Jason Castro 46 169 7 17 15 0 8.30% 25.40% 0.191 0.262 0.224 0.296 0.414 0.312 100 -0.1 -0.1 4.4 1.1
Jed Lowrie 18 74 4 11 10 1 16.20% 20.30% 0.267 0.341 0.3 0.432 0.567 0.418 175 0.9 7 0.3 1.1
Colby Rasmus 54 184 8 23 20 1 9.80% 33.70% 0.236 0.344 0.248 0.321 0.485 0.348 126 0.8 6.1 -2.5 1
Chris Carter 62 245 11 25 31 1 13.90% 33.90% 0.196 0.274 0.206 0.327 0.402 0.324 109 0.3 2.7 -5.7 0.5
Hank Conger 25 81 3 6 8 0 14.80% 25.90% 0.191 0.25 0.206 0.325 0.397 0.323 108 0.3 0.9 0.5 0.4
Jake Marisnick 58 187 4 20 19 10 4.30% 26.70% 0.139 0.311 0.243 0.28 0.382 0.287 83 1.5 -2.1 -0.9 0.3
Luis Valbuena 56 234 14 33 26 1 7.70% 21.80% 0.227 0.169 0.185 0.256 0.412 0.292 86 -0.6 -4.2 -0.5 0.3
Preston Tucker 29 102 2 12 10 0 8.80% 19.60% 0.163 0.314 0.261 0.333 0.424 0.333 115 0 1.7 -2.8 0.2
Carlos Correa 6 26 2 3 4 1 3.80% 30.80% 0.28 0.267 0.24 0.269 0.52 0.339 119 0.2 0.7 0.3 0.2
Evan Gattis 61 241 12 30 39 0 4.10% 24.10% 0.218 0.261 0.236 0.266 0.454 0.308 97 -1.1 -1.9 -6.2 0
Jonathan Villar 38 105 1 12 7 4 7.60% 25.70% 0.105 0.353 0.263 0.317 0.368 0.303 94 -0.9 -1.7 -2.1 0
Marwin Gonzalez 42 141 3 15 15 1 2.10% 22.00% 0.132 0.255 0.213 0.23 0.346 0.25 57 -2 -8.8 1.7 -0.3
Robbie Grossman 24 54 1 7 5 0 9.30% 31.50% 0.102 0.194 0.143 0.222 0.245 0.215 32 0.6 -3.5 -1.1 -0.3

On the pitching side of things, Dallas Keuchel is having a phenomenal season, as is Lance McCullers. Velasquez didn't allow a run in his one start. The Rockies let Collin McHugh get away, and he has turned into a dependable starter for the Astros. The Astros rank a solid ninth in the majors in ERA.

Astros Pitchers

Name W L SV GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Dallas Keuchel 7 2 0 13 94.2 6.85 2.28 0.38 0.235 81.80% 64.20% 9.80% 1.9 2.89 2.95 2.3
Lance McCullers 3 1 0 6 36 10 2.5 0.25 0.241 77.40% 47.70% 3.20% 2 2.33 3.17 1.1
Josh Fields 2 1 0 0 17 15.88 4.24 0 0.321 76.50% 46.40% 0.00% 2.12 0.99 1.97 0.6
Scott Feldman 4 4 0 10 60 5.55 2.1 1.05 0.318 66.50% 49.70% 15.20% 4.8 4.09 3.64 0.6
Collin McHugh 6 3 0 13 79.2 7 1.81 1.36 0.321 70.70% 45.00% 13.60% 5.08 4.37 3.95 0.6
Brett Oberholtzer 1 1 0 4 20 5.85 4.05 0 0.323 76.70% 51.60% 0.00% 2.25 3.15 4.48 0.5
Will Harris 2 0 0 0 29.2 10.31 2.12 0.91 0.086 100.00% 54.10% 17.60% 0.91 2.93 2.42 0.4
Joe Thatcher 1 1 0 0 13.2 11.2 3.29 0 0.353 82.40% 47.10% 0.00% 1.98 1.71 2.84 0.3
Tony Sipp 2 3 0 0 22.2 10.32 1.59 1.19 0.241 83.30% 41.80% 12.50% 2.38 3.19 2.95 0.3
Roberto Hernandez 2 5 0 11 70 4.63 2.57 1.16 0.301 62.50% 52.30% 13.00% 4.89 4.65 4.35 0.2
Luke Gregerson 2 1 15 0 25 10.08 2.16 1.44 0.286 67.00% 57.60% 21.10% 4.32 3.66 2.64 0.2
Asher Wojciechowski 0 1 0 3 16 9 3.94 1.13 0.396 62.50% 20.40% 7.70% 7.31 4.04 4.68 0.1
Chad Qualls 1 3 4 0 21.1 9.28 1.69 1.27 0.288 64.20% 71.70% 30.00% 5.06 3.71 2.54 0.1
Vincent Velasquez 0 0 0 1 5 9 7.2 0 0.273 100.00% 27.30% 0.00% 0 3.5 5.18 0.1
Brad Peacock 0 1 0 1 5 5.4 3.6 0 0.313 62.50% 31.30% 0.00% 5.4 3.7 5.38 0.1
Pat Neshek 3 0 1 0 22.1 8.06 0.81 1.61 0.196 87.70% 33.90% 12.90% 2.82 3.91 3.52 0
Kevin Chapman 0 0 0 0 5.1 13.5 5.06 1.69 0.3 89.30% 18.20% 14.30% 3.38 4.23 3.62 0
Michael Feliz 0 0 0 0 1 9 0 0 0.333 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0 1.1 3.89 0
Jake Buchanan 0 0 0 0 9 5 4 1 0.154 93.00% 57.70% 14.30% 2 5.1 4.74 -0.1
Samuel Deduno 0 1 1 2 21 7.29 3.86 1.29 0.328 62.90% 47.00% 16.70% 6.86 5.06 4.39 -0.2

Probable pitchers

Monday: Chad Bettis vs. Dallas Keuchel

Tuesday: Chris Rusin vs. Vincent Velasquez

Wednesday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Brett Oberholtzer

Thursday: TBA vs. Collin McHugh